Foot Locker’s latest investment is a school for shoe designers

Foot Locker wants to make sure it has an early edge on the ‘footwear of tomorrow.’

The athletic footwear and apparel retailer announced that it has made a $2 million investment in Pensole Inc., operator of the Pensole Footwear Design Academy. The company was founded by former Jordan design director and educator D'Wayne Edwards.

Edwards' mission at Pensole is to create a pipeline of new designers for the entire footwear industry. The school offers free tuition and a learn-by-doing curriculum that teaches students the entire footwear and apparel design process, from product inspiration and concept development, to manufacturing and branding. It has placed 400 graduates in the sneaker industry since the first class graduated in 2010. (To see a related video click here.)

Foot Locker’s relationship with Pensole and Edwards goes back to 2015 when the chain supported a master class design competition, "Fueling the Future of Footwear,” which has become an annual program. The retailer said it has sold three styles created from the class globally, all of which have had successful sell-through.

With the new investment, Foot Locker, its vendor partners, and Pensole will collaborate on new educational programs and the design and manufacturing of exclusive products for all of Foot Locker’s brands. (Earlier this month, Foot Locker announced a $3 million investment in start-up Super Heroic Inc., which designs, manufactures and markets high-performance, technically designed footwear and clothing created specifically for children.)

“Through this investment, we are excited to extend our partnership with Pensole, an organization that shares our deep commitment to fostering education and driving design innovation and excellence in the industry," said Richard Johnson, Foot Locker's chairman and CEO. "Pensole's position as a leading footwear design academy will enable Foot Locker to deepen our relationships with our vendor partners and leverage the next generation of talent across our brand partners for exclusive consumer-facing concepts. We look forward to working closely with D'Wayne and Pensole’s talented students and world-class faculty, as together we design and produce the footwear of tomorrow.”

Edwards noted that his relationship with Foot Locker goes back over 30 years, and extends from consumer, to designer, to educator and now partner.

“I am excited to deepen our relationship with Foot Locker so we can empower consumers to create their future through innovative educational programs," he said "It has always been our joint mission to foster the next generation of emerging footwear and apparel design talent, and I am confident that our collaboration will contribute to the continued growth of the academy, success of our students, and accelerated innovation in the footwear industry."

Foot Locker operates approximately 3,270 stores in 27 countries in North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. Its brands include Foot Locker, Kids Foot Locker, Lady Foot Locker, Champs Sports, Footaction, Runners Point, Sidestep, and SIX:02.